Bernice Knol, daughter of the late Henry and Flora Schoonvelt, passed away peacefully in her sleep on June 15th, 2021. She was 100 years old.
Bernice was born in Chicago Illinois, on May 19th, 1921. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school and went to work for Johnson & Johnson in Chicago. She worked her way up to become a supervisor, overseeing the quality control team inspecting personal products at J&J.
Bernice wrote to many service men during World War II, sending them encouragement and news of home. Her cousin served in the United States Army Air Force at that time and asked Bernice to write to a friend he made because his friend was lonely and was a ‘nice Dutchman’. The rest is history and John Knol (she called him Jack) and Bernice were married on March 17th, 1945.
John had completed his tour of duty in Europe and was sent as an instructor to Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi where Bernice joined him. Bernice hated Biloxi, the humidity and the cockroaches, and Jack requested to be discharged and they moved back to Chicago. They bought a house and settled in and it was here their children, Linda and Judith (Judy) were born. Jack worked during the day and Bernice worked the night shift so there was always a parent home with the children. In the early 60’s they packed up the family and moved to Tahoe City, California allowing Jack to pursue a major job opportunity. Bernice also became the office manager for the same company. When the company was sold, the family moved to San Jose and Bernice became a full-time homemaker and was able to start devoting more time to pursue her creative interests. She was an avid seamstress and made all her own clothes, clothes for her grandchildren and even a couple of shirts for Jack. She took a tailoring class and made suits and coats for herself. Bernice and Jack moved to Livermore in 1979 allowing Jack to pursue another job opportunity while Bernice continued to revel in her creativity. She loved needlecrafts, knitting, and of course sewing, and would spend hours doing needlepoint and crewel work. She made a beautiful tapestry depicting a European street that she proudly hung in their living room. Bernice also decided to take up china painting and became so enthused that she bought her own kiln so she could fire her work. She won several awards, and her daughters still delight in using their beautiful Christmas mugs, floral plates, vases, etc. Bernice would often use the roses and flowers from her garden for inspiration. In addition to all the craft work, Bernice became an avid gardener after their move to Livermore, and she and Jack landscaped their back yard. Their yard included numerous fruit trees not to mention Bernice’s rose garden. The family enjoyed the fruits of their labor including the best apple and peach pies, apple slices, applesauce, peach jam and one of Jack’s favorites, lemon meringue pie.
Jack passed away in 2003 and Bernice continued to live in Livermore, halfway between the homes of her two daughters, one in San Jose and one in Danville! But it was lonely, and life was catching up with Bernice and in 2007 she moved into a retirement facility closer to Judy.
Bernice was a devoted mother and grandmother who was always willing to step up to do what was needed to support her family. She delighted in having her family around her and could never spend enough time with them. She suffered for the majority of her life from chronic physical conditions that left her in constant pain but she was one strong lady and would not let her physical ailments keep her down for long. She loved babysitting her grandchildren, gardening, crafting, painting, taking car rides to new places and going out to eat with her family.
Bernice is survived by two daughters, Linda Vanderbyl (Ron) and Judith Berry (James), four grandchildren, Debra Riggio (Steve), Kimberly Masegian (Todd), Joshua Berry, and Alexander Berry (Rayna), and four great-grandchildren, Megan Riggio, Dane Riggio, Alexandra Masegian, and Corinne Masegian.
The family would like to recognize and thank the Reminiscence team at Sunrise of Danville for their loving care and support of Bernice over the years. We would also like to thank the awesome hospice team from Vitas Healthcare Walnut Creek. Both organizations have helped tremendously to navigate the long journey during her last years.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.
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